Kevin Garnett has scored over 21,000 points in his NBA career. Between the MVP trophy, the Defensive Player of the Year award, the All-Star and All-NBA selections and the NBA Championship ring, it's awfully difficult to criticize a player of Garnett's caliber.
Realistically, Celtics fans have nothing to complain about when it comes to their Big Ticket. He motivates the team, anchors the entire defense, is selfless on the offensive side of the ball and possesses an unmatched intensity that he proudly displays game in and game out.
Despite this, there's one thing that's difficult to completely overlook in KG's game. As devastating as KG's face-up mid range game has proven to be over the course of his career and as lethal as his fade-away jump shot is, there is a huge disparity of offense initiated in and immediately around the paint with Garnett.
The simple question: Why? It's difficult to harp on, because the job still gets done at the end of the day. But when he actually plays inside, he makes it look so easy. So why not do it more? Why not do it every single time until the defense forces him to adjust?
There doesn't appear to be any straightforward answer. There's no, "Garnett doesn't play in the paint more because of this reason". As for the statistics? Well, sometimes I love stats and sometimes I hate them. And sometimes, despite my liking or disliking of it, stats just don't lie. According to 82games.com, 71 percent of all of KG's shots last season were considered "2-point jump shots". As a result, only 27 percent of his shots last season were deemed "inside shots" - a three to one ratio between jumpers and buckets in the paint (A few three-pointers made up the rest of KG's shots from last season).
Continuing with those numbers, KG shot a modest .453 from the field when shooting "2-point jump shots", but shot an incredible .745 clip when he resorted to "inside shots". Nearly 75 percent of his "inside shots" found the net last season. That figure is astounding, when you consider the NBA's field goal percentage leader last season was Shaquille O'Neal with a .609 mark, who never shoots from outside the paint.
The situation is similar for Rasheed Wallace as well. Here's a seven-footer who prefers to bring his offensive game even farther out than KG does. Wallace's love affair with the three-point shot has been well documented and 44 percent of his total shots last season were from three-point nation. He also put up an identical percentage within the three-point line, as 2-point jump shots accounted for 44 percent of his total shots as well. Falling by the wayside were his inside shots, which made up a measly 10 percent of his total shots last season. Not coincidentally, Wallace shot 35.4 percent from three-point land, 44.4 percent on 2-point jump shots and 58.2 percent when he played inside.
So, again, why don't both players play inside more often?
There seem to be plenty of scenarios where playing inside would benefit not only KG and 'Sheed individually, but would greatly benefit the entire team, as the opposing defense would have to match up with two 7-footers in the paint. Based on the players that make up this season's roster, it appears as if the Celtics can exploit various matchups on a nightly basis. So, on any given night, we could realistically see either Garnett or Wallace matched up with either a subpar defender, a shorter defender or a rookie defender.
Now, why would Garnett and Wallace make it easier on such a defender by positioning themselves farther away from the basket? Typically that makes the defender's job easier, because now all he has to do is contest a jump shot from 15 to 30 feet out, as opposed to fighting for position inside and dealing with the herky jerky fakes and pivots of these two players. As opposed to having to worry about a jump hook, an up fake or an up and under, that defender now only needs to worry about contesting a jump shot from X number of feet away from the hoop.
Furthermore, with both Wallace and Garnett getting older, there's a far lesser chance of either faking an opponent out on a jump shot from 15 feet away and scooting by him on the baseline to go in for an open dunk. Sure, we'll see it on occasion, but for the most part, once both players receive the ball on the perimeter, it's likely to stay there.
What about a shorter defender? Say Garnett or Wallace is dealing with a player who doesn't measure up height wise from the get go. If either decides to take him down low, that defender will have enough difficulty stopping any offensive moves to begin with and that's before we factor in KG and 'Sheed raising the ball over their heads to shoot and jumping as well. KG stands at 6'11, but adds arguably a foot or two to that when he extends his arms to shoot and another couple of feet when he leaps off the ground to release the shot. The same goes for Wallace.
Orlando added Brandon Bass, who can try and muscle Garnett and Wallace as much as he pleases, but the second either establishes favorable position on him on the block and decides to throw up a short fade away, it's over. One could even make a case that guys like Cleveland's Anderson Varejao and Orlando's Marcin Gortat - players who do measure up to Garnett and Wallace height wise - cannot effectively defend these shots either. It'll be interesting to see if Doc Rivers incorporates more plays which call for Garnett and Wallace to receive the ball on the low block. It would make sense, wouldn't it?
Does age factor in here, as well? Are we more likely to see these two players find the painted area more as they enter the twilight of their careers? Will the roaming around the perimeter, the fakes and the jukes outside eventually put too much unnecessary stress on the knees and the joints? Will simply posting up inside offer more of an alleviation to the bodies of both players?
Playing out on the perimeter of course holds its own advantages for Garnett and Wallace from time to time. When the Tim Duncans and the Dwight Howards of the world are involved, KG and 'Sheed are arguably most effective outside because it takes All-NBA defenders like Duncan and Howard out of the paint, thus freeing up the lane for the Celtics' slashers like Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce and Marquis Daniels.
One of the biggest advantages of having Garnett and Wallace on the same team is that when both are playing together and the opposing team has a legitimate post defender to throw at them, that defender will almost immediately be taken out of the paint by either Wallace or Garnett, who would simply step out and play along the perimeter. Beyond that, when that defender is dragged out, the other big can then plant himself down low and suddenly the Celtics have slashers cutting and a legitimate post presence to boot.
Finally, as both Garnett and Wallace are both very intelligent basketball players, if the defense wishes to double down on either of them when they play in the paint, the C's have enough outside shooters and cutters to compensate. KG and 'Sheed need merely find an open teammate, whether it be a cutter slicing down the middle or an open shooter who's parked himself in the far corner.
With over 36,000 points between the two of them, Garnett and Wallace's preference to the perimeter has served each one very well. But their occassional dominance inside leaves us wondering why it's not a more common occurence. Perhaps the time has come to even up the perimeter to paint ratio.